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Nigerian Unions Threaten National Strike - 2004-06-08


Nigerian trade unions have called for a nationwide strike Wednesday to protest rising gasoline prices. The government is trying to block the strike, which could paralyze the petroleum industry and affect the already soaring price of oil.

Nigeria's largest trade union, the Nigeria Labor Congress, has threatened to call a nationwide strike for Wednesday and is urging citizens to stockpile food and other necessities in preparation.

The president of NLC, Adams Oshiomole, says Nigerians are fed up with the increasing price of gasoline.

"People are very, very angry," said Mr. Oshiomole. "They are very disturbed about the activities of the government. Nigerians are very, very poor now. They expect too much from democracy and all they are getting is hardship. There is still no good power supply, the roads are bad, there is no water, there is no food, there is no employment, people are hungry and they do not see what the government has done with previous price increases."

Mr. Oshiomole says the recent 30 percent, or 12 cent per liter price hike is too great a burden for Nigerians.

The NLC called for a general strike earlier this year when the government attempted to impose a gas tax. But the strike was averted in the last minute when a court issued an order banning both the strike and the tax. But the prices of gasoline have been on the rise since then.

Nigeria is one of the world's top-10 oil producers, but it does not have enough refining capacity, relying on imports of gasoline to meet domestic demand.

A spokesman with a natural gas workers union, Bernard Ugbi, says a strike by its members will cripple oil production and exports.

"We do well know that the strike will not only affect Nigerians because as a player in the world economy, crude oil exports, we know it will affect the price of crude oil in the stock market," said Mr. Ugbi. "And, of course, at the end of the day people will really want to sit down and then count what has happened. But, then this will have to workout for the benefit of the people and we cannot be thinking of other areas when we are really going through some problems."

The Nigerian government is making a last-minute effort to avert the strike, asking for a court injunction and inviting labor leaders to negotiate.

The government insists revenues from gasoline sales are contributing to road repairs, health and education.

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